I'm grateful that I have such a good sponsor that made it possible for me to go to Auronzo di Cadore in Italy to do the 3epic marathon since that will be the World Championships race next year. I met up with Craig at Arlanda airport (Stockholm) last week Tuesday and on Wednesday we flew to Zurich where we hired a car and drove to Auronzo. On Thursday, we woke up to a glorious sunny day and we took the bikes and went out to get orientated in the area. We found the start of the race course and rode the first 20 kilometres.After 20 km’s we turned around and did the loop of the last 20km’s. There would be 3 climbs within the last 20 km which I had seen the on the route profile, but I did not think they would be so brutal! I had a 32 chain ring on my Eagle and had needed a smaller to get up the first climb, the second was ok but the I can’t imagine even the elite men riding up the third one. One of the three downhills were so steep and rocky that I did not dare to ride down .... I can say that we were out a little longer than planned on that session!
After sun comes rain and it rained the whole of Friday, we went out for a short ride on the course but only the easy parts. I started to become a bit worried about the race, considering how cold it would be on the top of the mountains when it rained and how slippery it would be in the mud, I had only seen a few of the downhills and there would certainly be worse ones. The race started at 860 meters above sea level and the highest peak we were going to was about 2200 meters above sea level.
Craig was entered for the race but had been sick the week before so he decided not to race in this weather. So ,he got to do the feeding for Ariane and I (she was also there for the race).
It still rained when we got up on Saturday morning but we had luck on our side and it stopped raining sometime while I was warming up. There was a bit of chaos in the organization and when our start time passed, we had not been called up yet. Nothing was said in English so we just stood there wondering what was going on. I was not prepared when the start gun went so think I got away last. We had a ladies only start 1 minute behind the elite men and it worked perfectly, although it was a bit dangerous for the first kilometers through town, as we did not have a motorcycle in front of us, and there were cyclists, cars, people, dogs etc on the streets that did not know had started the race!!
It was a relatively calm start and we rode in a bunch. The first attack came from the Italian champion in the first forest section which was followed by a steep hill. We chased and it came back together. We were a bunch of 8 who passed the first feed station together and started the steeper part up to Misurina. I first sat on the wheels of 2 Italians but eventually they took off and I was in a small bunch with Ariane, Christina and Angelika. We had lost Katazina (the girl whom I sprinted at the European Championship last year and always meet at the World Champs) and a Polish girl. I stayed with them for a while, but somewhere around the 30 kilometre mark I had to let go. I could see that Ariane also dropped from Christina and Angelika in front. I got to Craig the first time and was told I was 1 min after Ariane and 3 min after the leader. It got steep and everyone walked a bit before hitting the first single track, it was nice and fun and a nice change from the constant climbing, but it was not for long, we soon hit the next 2 km climb that went straight up to Col di Verde. The polish girl came and passed me, I was a bit afraid to go too hard because it was still far to go. I tried to ride hard on the next single track to catch her again but it did not work and I never saw her again. It was slippery as ice on the muddy single track and there were sections where I had to run with the bike and it was difficult to click in the pedals again with all the mud under the shoes. I still felt that I was doing ok on the steep technical downhills.
I passed Craig again for a new bottle, he just said "keep going" and no times, so I guess I was far behind, so on the next long climb I just tried to get in to a good rhythm. Somewhere here we started to have a lot of fun riders in front of us and after I reached the top and started going downhill and hit a single track this became a problem, there were people everywhere! I was not really in "racing mode" and was struggling to pass people. I heard a voice of a girl shouting a bit back and I turned around to see Katazina coming, she was shouting at everyone to pass. I rode together with her for a long time and we were a lot faster since we spoke Italian and shouted constantly and everyone let us pass! I should probably have shouted more on my own as well. We rode together all the way up to Col di Verde the second time and down until we hit the same muddy single track which we had done earlier. A few hundred meters after entering the single track we turned left this time (instead of right as we had done earlier) and continued for another 10 km down the mountain. Katazina disappeared since she was faster than me in the mud. It was extremely slippery and some places everyone ran and some places I just let the bike go and hoped for the best.
I passed Craig at the bottom of the hill and got a new bottle, I was told I had 20 seconds up to 6th place and from here I knew the route from Thursday! I passed one of the Italians and it felt good up the first climb, I could ride it this time:-). The downhill which I was a bit nervous for felt like nothing compared to what I had just ridden!! I must say that it was probably the first time that I rode down about 200 meters with the saddle literally in my stomach all the way!! We just don’t have that kind of downhills where I live... I finished in 6th position, 29 minutes after Christina who won and 25 minutes after Ariane in second place. I had lost 5 minutes to Katazina who had passed the Polish girl. Sure I was a little disappointed with the result but I had decided not to look at the result because the purpose of coming here was to see the course and I was incredibly pleased with the things I had ridden without crashing and I think I had developed as a rider during the 6 hours I was out there! I was very happy that I had the opportunity to see the course and the area and to work on such slippery conditions! It will be a tough race next year at the World Championships if they keep this route!
We were incredibly lucky with the weather, it started raining just when I finished!! They said the prize giving would be at 15.00 and the first 10 would be awarded. So, Ariane and I changed quickly (did not have time to shower) then we sat waiting in the cold until 16:00 when they eventually started with the prize giving… We were sooo cold!! I think I had a shower around 17.30 and it had been a very long day…
The day after the race Craig and I rode a bit more on the course including the long downhill off the mountain, it was good to see it again! Yesterday we drove to Livigno where we will be for about 1 week for me to get used to the high altitude in preparation for Swiss Epic which starts on Monday. I was here in Livigno 2003 for skiing, then everything looked very different! I am looking forward to spending this week here since we always hear all cyclists training here, will be nice to see what they are talking about.
Ariane and I before start
At the top of Col di Verde the day after the race